There’s an app for just about everything these days. Some of them are useful, such as an alarm clock app, GPS map apps, email apps, Passbook for storing airline boarding passes and concert tickets, The Economist app for international insights, Skype and What’sApp for communicating free over the internet. Some are entertaining (and maddening at times) such as Candy Crush, Solitare, Mah Jung.
Others are downright weird. Such as “Honey, It’s Me”, a Korean app which features a lovely young Korean girl, Mina, as your digital girlfriend who leaves you wake up messages and other messages for the lonely during the day. And it gets even weirder with the iFart Mobile app, which transforms your iPhone into a virtual fart machine. Good for laughs, or so they say.
My latest research shows that as of July 2015, on the various app stores (Google play, Apple store, Amazon, etc.) there are over 4 million apps available for download on mobile platforms. And the number is growing daily.
And sure enough, there are apps on leadership. Dale Carnegie Training has several leadership apps; Personal Leadership, Team Leadership, Company Leadership, and the Secrets of Success in English, arabic, Portuguese and Spanish. There is Speak Like a CEO from McGraw-Hill supposedly giving you the secrets for better communication in any business environment. Numerous other so-called leadership apps deliver articles and summaries from books on leadership, some provide a leadership self-test followed by standard developmental reading.
Did Gordon Bethune use a leadership app to dramatically turnaround Continental Airlines (From Worst to First)? Did Jack Welch use a leadership app to grow GE from a market value of $2o billion to over $400 billion in 20 years. Did Tony Hseih use a leadership app to build Zappos to $1 billion in sales in just 10 years? Did Reed Hastings use a leadership app to keep growing and innovating at Netflix?
Okay, apps weren’t even around during the time of Jack Welch and Gordon Bethune, but you get the point.
There is no shortcut or cliff-notes for effective leadership.
Leadership is a journey from novice to master that requires facing tough situations, making difficult choices, and learning from mistakes. It also takes a healthy dose of understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses. You don’t get those by reading a book or glancing at your iPhone.
You develop leadership acumen through leading, not reading.
Those who really want to improve their leadership don’t just go to Advanced Management Courses at a top business school. The best leadership learning is experiential. They volunteer for the toughest jobs in the company. They willingly raise their hand to clean up the messes of poor M&A integration, failed ERP implementations, opening new regions far from headquarters, creating new markets and products. They get up to their eyeballs in the issues, both business issues and people issues. The don’t give up. They are willing to pull the plug rather than throw good money after bad. They take the decisions others avoid. They lead long before acquiring the title of leader.
Mission – Command – Control
The US Army and Marine Corps (and other modern military forces) drill into all its officers the process of Mission – Command – Control through constant case studies, war games and simulations. And scenario planning is great for knowing what to do if . . . But on the battlefield or deep behind enemy lines almost every time there isn’t a well rehearsed scenario to fit the current situation that has just gone haywire. That’s were the Mission comes in. In the Mission – Command – Control process the only constant is the mission. Command orders may change due to updated intelligence information. And often the control structure shifts rapidly as the “boss” is taken out of action. Plans often change, but the mission (and the values that go along with it) remain as the key guiding principle.
Every boxer has a plan, until they get punched in the face. ~Mohammed Ali
If more business leaders would clearly articulate the mission and the leadership values, it would be easier to make better decisions in the field. Remember the core principles of how leaders behave in this company – if you don’t have these principles, you get behaviour formed from however the person grew up or from his/her last company. And lack of alignment among the leaders is a recipe for disaster.
And by the way, make profit is not the mission, that’s a result of a successful business mission.
Something to think about next time your iPhone pings you!
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!